Garnaut and methane

A strong sign of the high level of public interest in climate change and carbon trading is the fact that all the public forums held by Ross Garnaut this week following the release of his report have been full. I am hoping to get to the one in Brisbane tomorrow.

There’s been ample commentary about the Garnaut Report and the wider issues in the blogosphere and the mainstream media. I might add my two cents worth in a few days time. In the meantime, I’ll just link to this article by Professor Barry Brook, a professor of climate change at the University of Adelaide, Geoff Russell and Peter Singer. It focuses on the lack attention paid by Garnaut to the impact of methane – a topic I’ve gone on about many times but which doesn’t seem to get much general attention. 

Why is methane so under-appreciated? There’s a political reason and a technical reason.  The political reason is that if telling Australians that they need to pay more for petrol and electricity is tough, telling them they need to consume less beef, lamb and dairy products is going to be tougher still.

The article suggests Garnaut has underestimated the heating impact of methane, asserting that “rather than rate methane as 25 times more potent, per tonne, than carbon dioxide in causing global warming, the correct figure, if we average over 20 years, should be that it is 72 times more potent.”

I understand the reasons why it is proposed that agriculture be left out of the initial carbon trading scheme, but we should still be raising awareness about this area of the debate in the meantime.

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23 Comments

  1. Andrew. Timely post.

    Reading the Garnaut document draft, I had assumed that the ‘carbon’ in ‘carbon trading’ meant, as it usually does, ‘carbon equivalent’, which does factor in methane and it’s higher capacity to affect climate.

    I’d be really worried if that’s not the way it is!

    My posts on the matter

  2. I think what Garnaut is expounding is a load of guano.

    According to a media report today, people could end up paying $8.00 a litre for fuel by 2012.

    Yesterday I saw Tony Abbott discussing his and Brendon Nelson’s attitudes towards carbon trading. He said we should do NOTHING at all, until countries such as China come on board – I think for excellent economic reasons which might avoid potential warfare.

    On the National Press Club address this week, Bob Brown said there was no such thing as “clean coal technology”. Then why aren’t these “green” people coming up with something?

    Sequestration has also proven to be a relative “non-goer”.

    If Garnaut and others pushing their climate change agenda are reading here, I want to know WHEN they are going to set up multiple anti-gravity vacuvortices to pump the greenhouse gases out of the Earth’s atmosphere.

    Their current ideas will clearly destroy the planet and its inhabitants at a much more basic level – economy, lifestyle and basic survival.

  3. Lorikeet

    Many lifestyle changes are need. a simple switch of diet along with concerted sequesration of carbon in vegetation might be enough to abate climate change all by itself.

    Living simply is possible and our survival is not reliant on any particular type of economy.

  4. Alistair:

    We don’t need to change our diet at all.

    There is no absolute proof that any kind of climate change will occur on an ongoing basis, no matter what we do.

    The last I heard there were serious problems with sequestration.

    Whether we like it or not, our economy and standard of living will be very greatly affected by the implementation of what is suggested by these crazy excuses for scientists, especially a carbon tax.

    If all countries are not locked into a certain set of standards, non-complying countries’ economies will thrive at the expense of others. I think Brendon Nelson and Tony Abbott are correct about this, and Malcolm Turnbull and Wayne Swan are wrong.

    I saw a guy on TV today who no longer wants to use grains for biofuels. Instead he wants to use the comparatively “useless” parts of the plants. I think they should be pelletised and fed to the cows, which may reduce their contribution to greenhouse gases.

    I agree with Bob Brown who thinks we should be making far greater use of solar power. It doesn’t produce any pollution and is free, once you have your solar panels and necessary apertures in place.

    Two neighbours have already downsized their vehicles to save money on fuel. I also heard a news report which stated that treechangers are moving back to the cities for the same reason.

    I think we can look forward to an increasing number of people living on the streets due to lack of accommodation (quite apart from cost). Time to look in the cupboards for any spare blankets to donate to the poor.

  5. A mathematician, a programmer, a Zoophilic bioethicist and a weather forecaster (OK, an AGW believer) proclaim that this is “not just an ‘earth hour’ stunt. This is the real deal“.

    Yep! Got that!

    By way of distancing myself from the lines a certain crassness, I misquote the famous lines, “may the cows fart in your general direction“.

    Lorikeet: I like your first line (“Garnaut’s guano”). Can I keep it & use it?

    Alistair: The key was at the end of your first (July 11) paragraph even if you did not realise it.

    “Climate change(s) all by itself”.

    We can even afford to twiddle our fingers, wait a while, and presto! The twiddling worked.

    Even some of the scientific global warming alarmists believe that CO2 greenhouse gas plays no decisive part in governing earths temperature.

    Gotta go. I think there’s a BBQ beckoning this fine Friday night.

  6. Humanity is perfectly capable of change, and the kind of material indicators you are conceptualizing as “living standard” have nothing to do with human happiness and well being. People with the highest “living standards” die earlier of the worst diseases and work hardest to maintain them.

    Regardless of climate change, we are heading for environmental devastation due to our animal diet. Land depredation (desertification, salinity, soil erosion), fresh water shortage and pollution, both will ensure that our global civilization and small nations never reach that happy peaceful future we dream of. The increase in animal diet causes a sevenfold increase in the amount of grain required and though humanity can theoretically feed itself today, if the FAO prediction that meat production will double by 2050 is right, we will need several earths to maintain our environments.

    So guys and gals, changing our diets and our assumptions, or at least keeping them flexible along with an open mind, is essential. And the medical fact is that we don’t need meat.

  7. Alistair:

    I have not conceptualized any material indicators. I’m not talking about high living standards at all, and even those are open to interpretation.

    I have no interest in economic collapse at a national level, with Chinese or others taking over.

    How much “human happiness and well being” do you think will come from paying $320 for 40 litres of fuel?

    The idea that we don’t need to eat meat is NOT a medical fact. People who don’t eat meat require vitamin and mineral supplementation, especially if they also don’t eat eggs or dairy products.

    I saw an interesting item on TV in which they discussed a potential worldwide shortage of grain. They showed the diets of people in the USA, China and an African country.

    Americans consumed a high percentage of fatty takeaways and softdrinks. (Even the Chinese ate more takeaways than I do.) I’d say my diet was still closest to their food intake – with meats, vegetables, fruits and grains. I hasten to add that the family they used as the model were not peasants.

    In the African model, they showed several baskets of different types of grain – nothing else. One was fairly green – could have been lentils. These people were considered most at risk of dying from starvation due to increased prices of grain.

    I think the answer to ill health is to eat all things in moderation – cutting out the fatty takeaways in particular.

    People should not convert to the “Peter Beattie Diet” because it is too high in carbohydrates and too low in dairy products and proteins – possibly also fat, since it didn’t even make it onto the diet plate.

    Every year a slice of bread seems to get thicker and larger, with fewer slices per bag. We will have more grain foods to go around, and smaller waistlines in the Western world, when people cut their intake of fattening carbs and insist upon smaller bread slices.

    Byproducts of the grain industries could be pelletised and fed to livestock, not cars.

  8. For anyone who might be interested, “Landline” on the ABC at 12 noon tomorrow (Sunday) will be showing how China and Peru are using the humble potato to fill the gap created by shortages of grains.

    Apparently potatoes have a higher yield for less work. Peruvians are now putting 15% potato flour in bread.

    When I was a child, we ate potatoes almost every night of the week. In more recent times, Australians have eaten more pasta and rice.

    Some people don’t buy potatoes at all, probably due to preparation time before cooking.

    Even the most time-poor person can buy frozen potato chips and whip them under the grill. The generic brands aren’t too expensive considering the skins have already been removed, and they’ve been given a thin coating of oil. But I think it would be unwise to eat them more than twice a week.

  9. Ii seems the worthy pursuit of being more conscious of dietary intake gets lost again,although,I am wondering anew,about methane,because of the nature of so many creatures going extinct,and that cannot be surely all farm encroachment,and animal husbandry.In Australia the price of fuel may drop the number of various methane emitters,which just shows the economic blinders,are more operational here than,the need to continue to assert farm based tree plantations,and further science on the animal emitters.Methane absorption,and what they are would seem to be the subject area to cover everytime methane is mentioned.I still am wondering why helium balloons haven’t been legislated out of existence,or an invention recycling the party balloon contents back into capture.A letter writer to the ReNew Magazine pointed out how oxygen atoms will also be buried with carbon,and that algae feeding on coal fired wastes seem more than worthy.Progress American style can be found at KeeleyNet.com regularily,if your computer works.I still think,Queensland had an oppurtunity,and blew it recently by having a general law that disallowed the reworking of underground coal mines.I am deeply disturbed by the lack of creativity about coal mining past and present and where it has taken place.I think the environmental considerations are always going to be proven right,it doesnt stop well grounded science and innovation to put old to new purposes.Curiosity has been priced out almost.. on the conjectures surrounding emissions and places.With babies being displayed here,I am feeling remarkably old tired and disappointed..it is time for some fathers to kick harder themselves.I simply ask comparisons between say,Jenolan Caves in N.S.W. and coal mines be made and add the question of the role of carbon dioxide could play if it wasnt directly involved in deterioration of attractions.

  10. An overwhelming number of climate scientists believe, that global warming is a reality and we are the cause.I understand,that Bob Brown’s inaugural speech was on this subject.About 30 yrs ago, as a member of Friends of the Earth,we were talking about the need for renewable energy sources, improved public transport and solar on houses if only for hot water at that stage.How improved the planet would be by now is too painful to contemplate.
    In the almost 12 yrs of the Howard govt, he wouldn’t entertain the idea of climate change, even rudely ignoring the visit by Al Gore.Howard cut back finances for Research & Development,forcing at least 2 major solar energy industries to other countries. Solar panels by a Chinese-Australian who researched his idea at Sydney Uni,and another to the US,where a major energy company is taking it up-solar power as base load power, which is less then 5 yrs away,and will be cheaper than nuclear and could be cheaper than coal. His work of 30 yrs was ignored by Howard and those in the Opposition,thrashing around like petulant toddlers. They drive me nuts!
    There are about 20 countries who are currently doing more than us, and they’re headed by Germany & California-2 conservatives!Sweden & Denmark are also achieving positive renewable energy sources with a lot of success.
    Tobacco companies carried on with denialism for years, and too much time was wasted for too many victims.All the signs are there to tell us that the planet is warming up,and the climate scientists(as opposed to the lay opposers)believe it’s our fault. Let’s just get on with it, but be fair dinkum. For instance, I can’t see the logic in having a carbon credit system if we build more roads, and have 1300 less buses and over 300 less trains in Sydney;or talk of sacking rail workers; or worry about carbon emissions but allow the Gunns Pulp Mill in Tassie,which will use native forests in its initial stages,and send the filth to pollute Bass Strait?MAD?

  11. “and have 1300 less buses and over 300 less trains” I don’t mean that those buses and trains were sold, those number of SERVICES ceased with the result, that buses & trains are overcrowded, and it’s believed that it’s only a matter of time before there’s a serious incident/accident/death on the busiest platforms (Sydney)due to overcrowding. This at a time, when people should be encouraged to leave their cars at home and use public transport; when politicians mouth platitudes re global warming and the need to reduce carbon emissions!

    Those more likely to cope with the increased cost of petrol live closer to the big cities and their jobs;those on lower incomes are more likely to live in the western suburbs of Sydney, and are on average having to take longer to get to work by car! How much fuel is wasted during traffic snarls?Spending 40 minutes or more in a day or couple of days in traffic jams?Then, public transport services are cut back? Madness!

    In the last few budgets, there’s been over $100 billion in tax cuts. Imagine what increases in public transport; solar power in the 8 million Australian domestic dwellings at a cost of approx.$20,000 each; base load solar power in some areas cutting down usage and the need for more coal powered power stations, or reducing some?I understand in some countries, natural gas is ‘burnt off’ each day as it’s not used?Does it happen in Australia? If so, why? And why are we exporting natural gas while there’s an increased demand on electricity?Why isn’t there more natural gas(less pollution) available for domestic use, cutting back the strain on heating/cooking etc by electricity, or in areas like Armidale in NSW where open fires are widely used in the winter,with a huge increase in pollution,leading to increased health risks for asthma sufferers? No planning, no co-operation between the states, a huge waste of time & money for almost 12 years?Watch Kevin Rudd be crucified if he doesn’t work miracles! Infuriating?Arh!

  12. 850 000 planes get off the ground daily from different airports and the number will be doubled soon. This figure does not include military planes and rockets. Apparently, the emission from those jet planes is the main contributor to our planet warming. Eating lettuce and variety of weeds will help noone as pretty soon the grass will be contaminated, just the same.

  13. Naomi Cartledge: Just a quick one late on a Sunday night; “20 countries who are currently doing more than us, and they’re headed by Germany & California”

    Last I looked, California had not succeeded and remains a state of the USA and not a fully fledged country.

  14. GZG -Ooooops! Touche! Sorry! My mistake!
    Incidently, it’s not “SUCCEEDED” (from the US)it’s SECEDED’?Smart a**e!

    California has not indicated that it wishes to secede from the rest of the US – they’re just behaving in such a different manner it’s almost a natural instinct to believe they have? ! Unlike Bush, the Governor of California has given car manufacturers the message – produce more efficient less polluting motor vehicles, or you’ll be ‘fined’/sued? I understand, that if Howard had insisted on motor vehicles complying with the same standards as those same vehicles sold in Europe, the owners would be saving serious dollars in fuel comsumption(billions per year for our country) negating the infantile argument of Brendan Nelson and others re a 5/10c reduction on fuel excise, reducing the family petrol bill each week.
    The Howard Govt not only wasted almost 12 years on reducing carbon emissions, they gave their usual rich mates a free pass to do as they wished! They also gave the fuel industry a huge $10 billion in subsidies! Considering that Bush and his mate downunder stuffed up a really good opportunity to show some leadership and both failed miserably-I was pretty fired up! Bush & Howard have shamed both countries, and I’m so bloody sick of the whining about how poor the rich companies are going to be, that I feel like throwing up! What are you doing GZG? How are you impacting the filth we’ve been ‘enjoying’ for decades? It’s payback time, or the planet is going to be in a horrible mess, and we’re going to choke on our own filth – or my/your grandkids are!
    This is a really serious situation, and all you could do was pick on an issue of grammer?Fair dinkum! I despair!

  15. NAOMI CARTLEDGE:

    Noami Said: Watch Kevin Rudd be crucified if he doesn’t work miracles! Infuriating?Arh! ”

    If your waiting for Mr Rudd to peform any Miracles you’ll be waiting a lifetime. But just think after 2010 the country will have this wonderfull carbon emission Trading/Tax system. Just like petrol we’ll have no idea what anything will cost us from day to day as the futures market rises and falls forceing lower income earners to the wall. Thats right on friday bread will cost $2.70 and come monday with some big investments from cartels(Similar to whats happeing with fuel at the moment) it’ll cost $27. Power might be cheaper on tuesdays and rise to 4 times that on weekends. Salads cheaper in winter but worth $100’s on weekends or in the summer. But Naomi there is an upside to this monster tax, Major energy producers and fuel companies will receive tax payer funded consessions so that they can remain onshore and keep their profits escaping to countries like china that wont have a similar carbon trading system. Now wont that make a grand story to your children and grandchildren, on how you lumbered this wonderful new tax system on to them.

    Tony

  16. NAOMI CARTLEDGE:

    Re: it’s not “SUCCEEDED” (from the US)it’s SECEDED’?Smart a**e!

    Ouch! Got me! As I said though, it was late.

    Hadn’t heard that Howard had ignored a visit by the businessman Al Gore (B.A.), but thank you for that balanced praise for our ex prime minister.

    Re: “they gave their usual rich mates a free pass”
    This would be in contrast to your Kev’s (up to) $70 million subsidy for Toyota? (Tony, is that your two headed beast in action?)

    Re: “I feel like throwing up” Now I know you’re exhibiting hypochondriasis or just baiting me.

    Please “impact the filth” as you see fit so as to avoid “choking on your own filth”, but don’t drag me let alone the nation into sharing your delusion

    All I could do was “was pick on an issue of grammer (sic)”. Nuff said.

  17. Rather than trying to one of the methane co2 greenhouse doomsayers
    and be out of a job political or civil..

    Why not recognise that whilst we can and will improve our efficiency Australians have the best record in the entire world;

    5% of the world yet using just 2.5% of the emmissions.

    5%-2.5 =%2.5% credit…wheres my credits someones stealing my credits someones forgotten my credits.

    One acre of pine stores 1 ton of carbon per annum

    In 200 billion acres we have more trees than what we need…

    We are net consumers of greenhouse gas not as the rest of the overpopulated undervegetated world is also benefiting from our production of up to a third 33% of the worlds food and raw materials at bargain basement prices.

    Even the corresponding imports of manufactured items are inflated x 5 and we pay dearly in giving it cheap and buying dearly.

    Australia has not exploited its trees at the sake of the atmosphere we have 100 acres per Australian man woman and baby only 1.5% of it is urbanised this has trees also look around…only 7% is arable ploughable land this has many trees then the remainder is forest shrublands and native vegetation.

    If Parliament carbon taxes australia its a crime, we are the greenest people on the planet despite our industry.

    We need a referendum on man made global warming conspiracy theory.

    Offsetting the poor and certain industries is only transferring the pain directly to working families those who pay and their employer or employment and the third world which likes to eat at $2 a day…and gets very upset if they dont…

    By the way theres 1.5 billion farting chainmen up north what do you suggest we do feed them or tell them shops shut ?

    Theres plenty of opportunity to count the trees and divide by 21 million ..

    Just today newsflash plant a tree day 1 million trees got planted today here, our farmers have been doing more than this for years, tell Australia we can either get our credits or get a chainsaw

  18. MIKE:

    Your missing the point i think. How much is the government spending on this current propaganda campaign?

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
    “It is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion.”

    Perhaps history repeating itself once again.

    Isnt 2008 the coldest year since 1980 ?

    Tony

  19. Tony: Re: “Isn’t 2008 the coldest year since 1980”
    You are the one missing the point.

    According to Steven Guilbeault (Political Adviser on Climate for Greenpeace International), “Global warming can mean colder, it can mean drier, it can mean wetter” (not sure if it can also mean warmer ; could have been a simple oversight). It seems it’s going to be very difficult to develop a KPI of our nation’s ability to “impact the filth” and reduce carbon “pollution”.

    On the upside though, without a yardstick the blind can happily follow the blind without question.

    According to ex French president Jacques Chirac, “equitable, democratic global governance” is the solution.

    “We ain’t seen nothin’ yet”. Be careful Australia!

  20. GZG:

    It can even mean everyone will have to give up some of their liberties.

    Yes global governance is once again the aim of the propaganda machine.

    Tony

  21. Tony and GZG – If “our ex-prime minister” hadn’t changed his mind over Kyoto and wasted almost 12 years, we might be further along with renewable energy,and the proposed carbon emissions trading scheme may not be so urgent.(Howard lauded Hill and Kyoto in Parlt but changed his mind in 2000?-Bush’s influence no doubt?)I think we should be more proactive than a carbon em.trading scheme.People were talking about renewables 30 yrs ago-govts went along with their mates in mining-no forward thinking eg public transport, but instead promoted roads etc once again for big business-OIL-TYRES-Coal etc.Similar thing happened in US in 30’sby same interests-almost decimated public transport.Howard gave almost $100 billion in tax cuts instead of putting into infrastructure-now we’re in a big mess!Cuts in monies for R& D-haven’t mentioned that have you?Freight transport? Howard with state govts privatized much of it?
    Solar technology forced overseas to manufacture or build prototype.
    TONY You still haven’t given your credentials re climate sceptic,or anyone else’s either?Watch ‘Saved by the Sun’ or other good docos-it’s on the net.There’s lots of activity going on in Europe and other places.Isn’t globalization a reality now but with negative impact on poor countries?Why can’t we make ‘global governance’ a positive tool for the preservation of the planet?People survived the “Great Depresssion”(with much difficulty I know).If capitalism falls over again we’ll have to cope – 80% want action on climate change!(latest poll)
    MIKE-I understand it takes 5 yrs for a new tree to be functional re carbon.I heard something the other day that said the ‘positive’ reaction of trees is in fact reversing-they’re emitting carbon themselves?Overload?If we still cut down trees as we are at present,new trees won’t help soon enough.Proposed pulp mill in Tassie will use native forests for? a Gunns’ person admitted recently.Shame on him!

  22. Whoa there Naomi! A 300 word flight of ideas and not a breath taken!

    “Howard with state govts privatized much of it?”
    How’s that work again? The fed. gov. jumping jurisdictional boundaries unopposed by Labor states?

    (Tony) still hasn’t given credentials re climate sceptic,or anyone else’s either?
    No credentials are required to be a either a “sceptic” or a “believer”. It’s helpful, though not mandatory, to be able to look, listen, learn & reason.

    “A ‘computer scientist’ isn’t really as good as a climate scientist” [from “Carbon Pollution” thread]

    David Evan’s (CSIRO’s ex carbon accounting modeller) mother may dispute your slur.

    On the subject of credentials, would you concede that David Evans may be better qualified than you (or I) to at least offer a meaningful opinion (albeit not in keeping with your religious position)?

    You say “globalization is a reality now but with negative impact on poor countries”, but then present a notion that we could “make ‘global governance’ a good thing”. Would you go like a lamb to the slaughter believing that the farmer knows what’s best for you? If you have the hostile view of governments and big companies that I perceive, I’d wonder why you’d trust a global government.

    “Maybe I missed it, but I haven’t seen or heard anything … that reinforces their broad statements of ’scare mongering’?

    Yep! You missed it. Only this morning I told my delighted daughter that global warming has been linked to an increase in kittens.

    And if that’s not spooky enough, there’s scaremongering aplenty for everyone at this fairly exhaustive list, though in rather more depth than one should care to pursue. There was no reference to cats however, so I fear the list is incomplete and things may be worse than they first appear.

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